Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)
TITLE: Buddha Beats the Dragon
By Sheri Gordon
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Day 5, At Sea
Stormy and rough—many queasy passengers. Heri, our Indonesian cabin steward, taught us some basic Indonesian etiquette: Don’t beckon someone with your index finger, don’t shake hands with your left hand, and never stand with your hands on your hips. (That one will be hard for me.)
Day 6, Lombok
The ship docked at Lembar Port, where we met our guide, Dedy. He told us about his island of 3 million people—mostly Muslims—as he sped past groves of palm trees and expansive rice paddies. At Banya Mulek, we climbed into cidomos (horse-drawn carts). We well-fed tourists sat two per cart—the Indonesians ride six per cidomo—plus groceries!)
Next we went to Sade-Rambitan—a traditional Sasak village. (The Sasak people make up 85% of the island population.) Their primitive houses are built on a steep hillside, with floors made of clay, dung, and straw. Dedy explained that the houses stink for a while, but the smell eventually goes away.
Our final stop was Kuta Beach, where we saw herds of water buffalo grazing in nearby swamps. Some of our group swam in the Indian Ocean, but the water was too warm for me after our hot, humid day. (Dedy said the water temperature is about 95 degrees.) I chose to wait for the ship’s refreshing pool instead.
Day 7, Komodo Island
This is the port I have been most anxious about—I don’t think I get along too well with dragons. Plus, it’s already stifling outside—oh, joy.
As we pulled into port, we could see a small village further down the shore. I cannot imagine living alongside 9-foot long, venomous, man-eating lizards! Ew-ick!
(They’re calling our disembarkation number…wish me luck.)
6 hours later I am back on board, still alive—barely—and yes, it was awful.
First, a little info about the monster, I mean monitor lizards. They can grow to be 11 feet long and weigh 300 pounds! Komodo dragons are carnivores—oh, really?—eating mostly deer, wild boars, and goats. They prefer their meals already dead, but will kill when necessary. If really hungry, they will eat their own babies—so the little ones learn to climb trees to stay alive. (Picture a 3-foot “baby” Komodo dragon dropping on your head as you stroll under a tamarind tree. Yikes!)
My fear of being eaten by one of these lethal lizards is not unfounded. We learned that just recently, a 10-foot dragon sauntered into a man’s house and bit him on the leg. The man was rushed to the hospital for surgery because the monitor lizard’s venomous bite will kill you!
After hearing all of that, we continued on the Komodo dragon expedition anyway—just call me pea-brained. We followed a ranger (very closely) along a muddy, narrow trail, past fields of lemongrass rife with bees and beautiful butterflies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to enjoy any of the scenery because we were told to watch for dragons and snakes in the grass. Are we having fun yet?
We finally arrived at a rock pit where we were rewarded with the pleasure of observing four ferocious-looking, apparently-ticked-off, monitor lizards. While we stood “safely”—yeah, right—on the viewing platform, two rangers “controlled” the raucous reptiles with large sticks. In my estimation, had those lizards been a bit hungrier, those rangers would have made mighty fine entrees.
Another group of tourists arrived, occupying a second viewing platform, and the dragons became even more agitated. Our entourage snapped a few quick pictures and high-tailed it out of there.
Safely back on our 60-ton cruise ship, I can tell you this about Komodo Island—never again!
Day 8, At Sea
Calm cruising on the Java Sea. Unfortunately, I have a monster migraine…probably from the stress of those monster lizards.
Day 9, Java
Semarang, Java is an industrial port—lots of noise, which didn’t help my lingering migraine. (Those darn dragons!)
We had a typical “touristy” day—seeing too much in too little time. The most interesting stop was at Candi Borobudur—the famous Buddhist temple. Built in 800 A.D., it was hidden under jungle vegetation until discovered by the British and Dutch in the early 1800’s. It took over 100 years to restore the temple, which houses 504 statues of Buddha!
I’m not a Buddhist, but Buddha beats the dragon any day.
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